Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Winter Sleigh'r Ride

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I walked into Christopher's office. "What are you doing tonight?" I asked him. He rattled off a couple of things and concluded with "not too much, why what's up?" I remained in his doorway. Both he and one of our colleagues, Joanna, patiently awaiting for the reason I had interrupted what I contend to be an somewhat impromptu casual conversation. "I have to drink and review a beer tonight. And it is not a beer have not procured yet." They both chuckled a bit. It was not assumed by them that I had a pressing issue, but mentioning a beer to drink and review on a Monday night perhaps caught them a bit off guard, especially given that the three of us had hung out on Friday night.

"Okay, yeah I am in," Christopher replied. "Remember that I have beer from Friday night as well. It's a Ninkasi?" I immediately perked up when I heard Christopher say "Ninkasi" because I was almost certain that had been one of the potential beers assigned to me for our "Winter Beer Month." "Where is it made?" I asked. Looking online, he replied, "Eugene." I walked expeditiously back to my office, checked my West Toast e-mail, and low and behold,there it was - Ninkasi Sleigh'r. So he and I made plans to reconvene back at my place in the evening to consume and review this beer.

"Have fun, and good luck with the review!" Joanna said with a smile when she left the office a little more than an hour later.

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According to their website, Ninkasi has been around for less than a decade. They started in a small leased space in Springfield, Oregon. They soon were able to set up a 15-barrel brew house. Within a year, they moved moved to their larger facility that has allowed them to employ a 50-barrel brewing system. Their beer reaches far and wide along the West Coast and Inland Northwest.

But Ninkasi is also a socially responsible company. They contribute to the local community through various partnerships. They have done everything from promoting local art events, to having proceeds from sales go toward important environmental causes at different times during the year. It is impressive to find a company that seeks to give back to their communities verses just being, it is an admirable quality.

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Sometimes plans change, and sometimes they are just slightly tweaked. A couple hours after leaving the office, I received a text from Christopher asking if I wanted to come to his place to catch the end of the Seahawks - Rams game and partake in the beer. There was no way I was going to pass this up, so I made the somewhat chilly trek to his building. As we watched the game, having ordered pizza, it was decided that it was the time to open the Sleigh'r.

There was a lot of excited about this beer for both of us. Christopher mentioned how he picked this beer. "I was at Safeway and I saw the label and thought it was pretty cool. I was looking for local seasonal beers and it stood out to me," he said. In looking at the label, it makes sense that this one stood out to him, it would have stood out to me as well.

When Chris poured the beers they had a very deep, dark, rich color. I couldn't help but be captivated by the dark hue. When held up my glass to the light, I actually noticed how the hue was more of a cherry or redwood hue with slight hints of orange. It was really cool, and made me wish I could capture that, but I was unsuccessful. I honestly don't know I have had a beer that looked so dark "naturally" but was so different when I held it to the light. To my credit, rarely have I paid much attention to the color of my beers.

When I was done obsessing over the shades of red, brown, and almost orange that was in the Sleigh'r, Chris and I both looked at our glasses and took a couple of whiffs. There were a couple of scents that came out right away. There were full, rich, malty nose on the Sleigh'r. Chris and I both thought it was almost like a coffee nose, which appeals to both of us. We were definitely intrigued.

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I don't know that I have ever had an "Alt" Beer before. I admit that I usually just find a beer that I like and enjoy it. The Ninkasi site says that the Sleigh'r is a "double dark alt" beverage. Alt ferments with the Ale at a cooler temperatures causing the beer to have a more crisp "lagerlike" flavor. From what I was able to gather, the Sleigh'r is the only double alt that Ninaski has in their arsenal of beverages. I could be wrong, which would have meant I did not look hard enough, so I don't want to make that claim overtly.

The bottling of the Sleigh'r is from September 1st to December 1st, and it was first brewed in 2009. There are various types of malts including Chocolate, Munich, and Crystal Malts - just to a name a few. The website mentions that the Sleigh'r has a "deep malted flavor that finishes dry." Suggested foods include strong cheeses, beef, and duck.

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As Christopher and I sat and drank our beer we had a great conversation. We both noticed how the Sleigh'r had a full malted flavor - we hadn't looked at the website about any of the notes before. Chris, being the coffee aficionado that he is, picked up on the coffee type richness, while I noticed the chocolate. These things, "almost make it seem like a porter," he stated, and I nodded in agreement.

"How did the wine blog start, and who is a part of it?" Chris asked. I then told him the story of how WestToast came to be. How we started as The Oregon Wine Blog, and the evolution from just wines focused on Oregon and Washington, to wines, beers, festivals, restaurants, etc, almost all over the West Coast. Chris laughed a bit as I told him about the WSU connection that the current contributors have. I spoke about some of the past contributors and how everyone brought something different to what they focused on. I have to say, I am glad Christopher asked about the blog, because I haven't thought a lot, and not anytime recently, about how things have come to be. It was cool, and felt good for me to tell a bit of the story of WestToast.

The Ninkasi Sleigh'r was a great drink to set the tone to go down memory lane. I got to share something I enjoyed with a colleague over a glass of beer that surprised us both. I definitely think a trip to Ninkasi and checking out more of their brews is in the future.

Until next time...

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